Since this lockdown started I’ve been looking forward to the games I’m going to have once it’s all over and that has served as an impetus to my painting, as well something to keep my mind occupied and positive. Consequently, I’ve been attacking the North Face of the Lead Mountain like a man possessed (don’t tell Mrs Fawr, but I’ve got about 3,000 unpainted Napoleonics… and the rest…).
With luck (and if we’re spared) my first game is going to be the Battle of Liebertwolkwitz, which was fought on 14th October 1813, being a major cavalry clash and precursor to the titanic Battle of Leipzig (the southern portion of which was fought over the same ground two days later). I’ve played the scenario before, but not for a VERY long time and I do recall it as being a fun, ding-dong of a game. It’s also quite a cosmopolitan battle, with Russians, Prussians and Austrians all present on the Allied side and a large Polish contingent fighting on the French side, which all adds interest and tabletop ‘colour’.
I’ve already got enough ancient and battered models to play the scenario, but thought it would be nice to FINALLY re-base and re-flag my mate Jase’s old Russian army (which he left with me when he emigrated to New Zealand and which was still based for WRG rules, which we stopped playing in around 1991), add a load of new AB Figures units to my own Russian army, paint an Austrian corps in shakos and finally paint Poniatowski‘s Poles…
Let’s get one thing out of the way at the start; The Duchy of Warsaw was never a GRAND Duchy. Nobody seems to know where or when this nomenclature started and it’s been refuted often enough, but the fictitious ‘Grand’ bit of the title is like a persistent weed that seems unwilling to die in wargames circles! I’m glad I’ve got that off my chest…
Duchy of Warsaw uniforms are something of a bugger to research, with lots of contradictory sources. I’ve gone with the information supplied in W J Rawkins’ latest booklet on the Army of the Duchy of Warsaw. If you’ve never come across him before, he started out in the 1970s selling very useful photocopied booklets on every Napoleonic army under the sun (many of these were ripped off and sold by someone else for a long time). He now sells them as ebooks or DVDs from his site The History Book Man and the advantage of doing them electronically is that he’s able to regularly update them as research develops. Consequently, his new booklet on the Poles differs in details with the 1970s version I used to own.
[Edited 24 Feb 21: Sadly I’ve just heard on the grapevine that Mr Rawkins passed away in December 2020 and the website is no more, so I’ve removed the link. 🙁 ]
Starting with the infantry, here’s the 1st Infantry Regiment. I’ve dressed them in the regulation uniform stipulated for all Duchy of Warsaw infantry regiments from 1810. They are recorded as wearing this uniform, though some sources also describe distinctly non-regulation sky-blue collar and cuffs and even yellow cuffs (these may all have been worn during successive years from 1810 to 1813). Prior to 1810 the 1st to 4th Infantry Regiments had yellow lapels, scarlet collar and cuffs and brass buttons, though the 1810 regulation changed that to a uniform very similar to the French line infantry uniform, though cut in Polish kurtka style with half-lapels and using crimson as the cuff and piping colour instead of scarlet.
Here’s a close-up of the 1st Infantry, showing the post-1810 regulation uniform in detail: The half-lapels and turnbacks were white, while the collar and shoulder-straps were dark blue, all edged with crimson piping. The crimson piping also extended down the front seam of the coat below the half-lapels. Cuffs were crimson with white cuff-flaps and may or may not have been piped white. Buttons were brass.
Descriptions and depictions of drummers’ uniforms vary wildly from source to source, but I went with one described for the 1st Infantry, namely a white uniform (which were very common for Polish drummers and trumpeters), with scarlet lapels and shoulder-wings edged sky-blue, with sky-blue collar, cuffs and turnbacks edged scarlet and a scarlet shako, drimmed with yellow.
The infantry-pattern czapka headdress was essentially just a squared-off black felt shako, unlike the cavalry czapka, which was a heavier leather helmet topped with a cloth-covered square ‘box’. All regiments had a brass band just above the brim, pierced with the regimental number. This was then surmounted by a white metal eagle and a white cockade. Centre company pompoms were sky-blue for most regiments and white cords were worn in full dress.
Elite company distinctions were very much like the French. The Voltigeurs had green fringed epaulettes (some had yellow, scarlet or white crescents), yellow collars and yellow or green pompoms, topped off with a yellow and green plume and yellow or green cords in full dress. The upper edge of the czapka was normally decorated with a band of yellow lace.
The Grenadiers wore scarlet fringed epaulettes (some had white crescents or even white epaulettes with scarlet crescents) and bearskins with brass plates and scarlet rear-patches, decorated with a white lace cross. White or scarlet cords and scarlet plumes were also added in full dress.
Prior to the 1810 regulations, the 5th to 9th Infantry Regiments had crimson lapels, collar and cuffs with white piping and cuff-flaps, dark blue turnbacks and shoulder-straps with crimson piping and white metal buttons. Chelminski recorded the 8th Infantry Regiment as retaining this uniform until at least as late as 1812, so I’ve dressed the 8th in this uniform by way of a change of scenery.
Some sources show the 8th Infantry as adopting the 1810 regulation uniform or a variant using rose-pink instead of crimson. While that would certainly add a splash of colour, I wonder if the pink is a mis-translation of crimson from a faded picture or faded survivng uniform?
While I haven’t painted any of these regiments, the 9th to 12th Infantry Regiments originally wore uniforms with white facings with scarlet piping and brass buttons, though again, most adopted the 1810 regulation uniform or other oddities of their own making.
The 4th, 7th and 9th Infantry Regiments were detached to the French Army of Spain in 1808 and by 1809 supply issues meant that they were wearing uniforms of French/Confederation of the Rhine style; namely square-lapelled ‘Spencer’ coats (as worn by many German contingents) and cylindrical French-style shakos. When these regiment returned to the Duchy of Warsaw in 1812 they continued wearing these French-style uniforms that were coloured roughly according to the pre-1810 regulations. I haven’t done any yet, but I do intend to do the 4th Infantry Regiment, using AB Confederation of the Rhine figures and a transplanted Polish Eagle standard. I’ll also do some Vistula Legion infantry using those same figures.
When a 13th Infantry Regiment was raised in 1809, it wore an esoteric uniform made from captured Austrian uniform cloth, being white with sky-blue facings. I did want to paint this unit, but it doesn’t appear to have been reformed following the 1812 campaign and wasn’t therefore at Leipzig (the remnants ended up as a fortress garrison). Nevertheless, I think I might have to paint the 13th one day, as it’s such a spectacular uniform.
Here’s the 15th Infantry Regiment. The 14th to 17th Infantry Regiments wore the 1810 regulation uniform, though once again some regimental variations crept in, such as some units allegedly replacing the crimson piping with scarlet.
One notable feature of the 14th to 17th Regiments is that their centre companies are recorded as having pompoms coloured by company as per French regulations: 1st – green, 2nd – sky-blue, 3rd – aurore (orange) and 4th lie-de-vin (violet). Sky-blue pompoms with company-coloured tufts are also recorded. Some of the 1st to 13th Regiments may also have used company-coloured pompoms.
In the 1st Edition of Mr Rawkins’ Army of the Duchy of Warsaw book, he stated that the tops of infantry czapkas were decorated with a box of lace tape around the edge and an ‘X’ of lace across the centre, very much like cavalry czapkas. However, in the latest edition, he has revised this to ‘infantry regiments may have decorated the tops with piping or lace’. However, give me an inch and I’ll take a mile… I like the look of the ‘X’ and it makes them stand out as being Poles not French, so I’ve painted it on all my infantry.